By Minde Nyl R. dela Cruz Reporter
and Gillian M. Cortez
LAW ENFORCEMENT agencies together with the Commission on Elections and other agencies are on alert with the holding today, May 14, of the village (barangay) and youth council (Sangguniang Kabataan or SK) elections.
The Comelec reminds voters that voting will be manual, with voters 15-17 years old to be handed SK ballots, while voters 18 to 30 will be given both SK and barangay ballots, and voters 30 and above, barangay ballots. The poll body will also be active on its social media platforms for inquiries.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) earlier tagged 7,915 election hot spots nationwide, with 619 areas under the red category. A total of 1,415 of election hot spots are found in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), 1,304 in Bicol, and 661 in SOCCSKSARGEN.
But PNP Chief Director-General Oscar D. Albayalde in a mobile phone message over the weekend also said, “(We) do not foresee any violent disturbance during this BSKE. However, our troops are ready for any eventuality and all polling centers will be guarded by uniformed policemen and some with AFP personnel.”
In his text message, PNP Spokesperson PCSupt. John C. Bulalacao said, “While we are (optimistic) that the barangay and SK elections on Monday will be peaceful and orderly, we still continue to monitor the barangays with history of violence and those with current intense political rivalries to preclude the occurrence of violence among supporters.”
The PNP deployed today 163,000 police officers nationwide.
For his part, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Colonel Edgard A. Arevalo on Sunday said “there are no serious threat monitored, (but)contingency measures were laid out,” particularly in areas under the red category or areas with reported violent incidents and presence of rebel groups such as the New People’s Army, Abu Sayyaf Group, and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
The Eastern Mindanao Command, for its part, deployed 8,500 troops to assist the PNP and the Comelec.
“AFP transport equipment within EMC control such as floating and flying assets are on alert status and will be deployed, if necessary, upon the deputization and order of the COMELEC (Commission on Elections),” Major Ezra L. Balagtey, spokesperson of the command, said.
In addition, troops will be “on standby to form part of the Regional, Provincial, and Municipal Rapid Deployable Force and Quick Reaction Teams” and Election Monitoring Action Centers in all levels of command will be established, Mr. Balagtey said.
Other agencies taking part in ensuring orderly polls are the Department of Health (together with the Red Cross), Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Inter-agency Council for Traffic (IACT), which in a statement said will be on the lookout for “colorum” vehicles that may be carrying flying voters.
IACT urges the public to report illegal activity possibly involving flying voters through its Facebook page or DoTr’s Action Center Hotline 7890.